Friday, May 25, 2007

Air Line services:The Smaller the better

Last week ,I travelled from Kelowna (Canada) to Seattle (USA) in a cultural trip on Alaska Air Lines. A few days earlier , it was known a recent survey which indicated that South West airlines was among the best rated by usual travellers . None of these air lines are among the biggest ,but they both have good service on board. I travelled once in Lot Airlines from Frankfurt to Krakow ,and it was the same experience, good service.
Bigger air lines usually becomes trapped in the “scale problem”. So big, so many passengers, that none of them count more than a full seat , with your seat belt on. Big numbers might get quality services out of control, because it might imply a captive market. In other words no matter what you do, you have clients waiting. On the contrary, Smaller air lines might get closer to every passenger in such a way ,that it look that you are the one and only. They have to fight for every passenger to convince him or her to become its usual customer.
What is it the economics explanation for that ?. In a small airlines, with narrower coverage the probability of repeating the travel is lower than on big airlines, which because of their wide coverage ,it has a higher probability of getting the same passenger again in a different route and flight. As a result , on big airlines they have the chance of getting back each passenger ,no matter how they attend them, therefore they can afford to have good quality of service in some flights, mixed with regular quality of service in another one ,no matter that the outcome will be an average quality of service, quite below the good quality services small air lines apply on every passenger based on the reasons mentioned before..
What usual travellers can do to improve the average of quality service ?.The common answer would be to change to a different airlines, but that imply some transaction cost because of the different schedules, check in facilities , flight connections and the like. A more practical solution is to avoid asking for services on board ,whether this is not good enough .Every passenger who reject a bad quality service ,is a signal for the whole service on board . To say no in a flight which is supposedly to be relaxing , is a strong signal to change service behaviour .But what about the price of the ticket you already paid? Well, when it comes to fly the most important thing is to arrive on time, so you pay for being there no sooner nor later, than what it was informed when you decided to buy an air line ticket. On board service are not include on ticket prices, unless that you travel on first class.
What to do then to improve the quality of standard on board service?. Get more involved on details concerning the crew. How are they doing?, How many hours have they been flying?. My hypothesis is that air lines on board services it requires the two to tango.With some exceptions, it has worked so far.